James G. Purvis
James G. Purvis is a genial and wholesome shipmate, and has spent much profitable time in the study of marine engineering, and as a reward of his patience has held many positions of responsibility and trust.
Mr. Purvis was born in Detroit on August 21, 1856, and is the son of Capt. James and Margaret (Fitzgerald) Purvis. His father was an educated ocean navigator, and was a man-of-warsman for several years, also master of full-rigged ship sailing out of London and other British ports. Both parents were natives of Ireland, the father being born in Belfast, and the mother in Limerick. They came to America about the year 1840, locating in Detroit, where they met and were married. The father was a practical shipbuilder, and constructed the schooner Trial at Detroit, and sailed her; also the barge Merrimac. He laid down the plans for the side-wheel steamers Water Witch, Ruby, and Susan Ward, and during his later years took contracts for planing, planking, etc., and did much of Captain Ward's repairing. He is now living in Detroit at the prime age of eighty, and still does his own thinking. Captain Purvis has six sons, all marine engineers. James G. and John B. are twins. John B. brought out the steamer Corsica new, and also ran the tug Duncan City. Thomas is chief engineer of the steamer Ionia; William, who was chief engineer of the Erie Fish Company, operating fourteen tugs, was murdered while acting as peacemaker in a brawl; Alexander is chief engineer of the Detroit fireboat Detroiter; George is assistant engineer on the steamer Tom Adams.
James G. Purvis, the subject of this sketch, acquired his education in the public schools of Detroit, which he supplemented by a course of study and international correspondence. After leaving school he entered the machine shop of Barnes Bothers in Port Huron, and became an expert draftsman. He worked with his father in Simon Langell's shipyard as carpenter on contract jobs. It was in 1876 that he began his career as marine engineer of P. L. Johnson, and took charge of the tug Cora B., of Bay City, in 1877, plying the Saginaw river between Bay City and Bangor, running her two seasons. During the seasons of 1878 and 1879 he served as second engineer on the C. B. Hull, following those of 1880 and 1881 as assistant on the steamer East Saginaw, after which he joined the St. Paul, as chief, and held this berth through 1882 and 1883. In the spring of 1884 he entered the employ of the Detroit Transportation Company, as chief of the steamer Iron Duke, which he ran one season, and in 1885 accepted the position of machinist for the Western Knitting Company, of Detroit; during the same year he joined himself to the Iron Chief, as chief, remaining on her till 1887; in 1888 transferred to the steamer Oregon, also as chief; and during the seasons named was chief on the following boats; 1889-90, brought out new the A. G. Lindsay; 1891-92-93-94, was on the Eber Ward; 1895, on the steamer Ogemaw; 1896, on the Unique, a steamer plying on the St. Clair River between Port Huron and Detroit, and carrying quadruple expansion engines, and very speedy when in trim. During the year 1897, Mr. Purvis was mechanical engineer of the Carkin, Strickney and Cram Dredging Co., and went where his services were required. In 1898 he became chief engineer of the fine steel steamer, Merida. Being a thorough mechanic, the machinery over which Mr. Purvis presides is always found in good condition, and he is well qualified to make his own repairs if any should be necessary. He has twenty-one issues of first class license.
On June 4, 1879, Mr. Purvis was united in marriage to Miss Caroline A., daughter of William and Elizabeth (Sharpsteel) Miller. Their children are John W., a graduate of Detroit High School; Alice M., a graduate of 1899; Margaret E. and James Alex. The family homestead is at No. 169 Junction Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.